We were in Toronto, and I was in the throes of teenage angst and art. I’d been set up with the daughter-of-a-friend-of-my-mum’s-high-school-friend because my mother didn’t want me going to a concert in a different city by myself. We were sitting at a picnic table at a vegetarian food festival in a park, awkwardly attempting conversation when she slipped me a copy of the zine she wrote.
I’d seen a zine before, but it had been informative and hard to read. As a result, I hadn’t really digested the concept, though I thought it was neat. When I read my friend’s zine, it blew my world open. Her zine was full of deeply personal art and writing, stuck together and photocopied into a piece of work that echoed my own inner turmoil. As an artist of many disciplines, I’d been struggling to find a way to put them together all in one place, and zines became a perfect medium for me. They were, and still are, a way for me to express myself in various forms and create something tangible I could hand to people. I didn’t have to worry about submissions, rejections and editors. Instead, I could make my own publications using scissors, glue and a photocopier.
The problem most people have when making a zine for the first time is where to begin. Because there aren’t really any solid guidelines, word counts, or subjects, it’s all up to the zinester, which can be daunting. This wasn’t the case for me, as I finished my first zine in one night, feverishly writing, collecting photographs and arranging them in a way I liked. While I wouldn’t show my first zines to most people today, I still treasure them as an artifact of where I was at the time and the cathartic process of putting them together. The draw of zines, to me, has always been about more than just getting my thoughts out; it’s about the whole process. I rarely have a concrete idea of the finished product. It’s a conversation with the paper, words and pictures, as well as deep self-reflection to describe what I’m feeling or trying to say. As I grow and evolve as a person, so do my zines.
I don’t make zines for other people. I make them for myself and would continue to do so even if nobody else wanted to read them. The letters I get from people telling me about how my zines helped them confront something about themselves or inspired them in their own work are a bonus.
In essence, the zine community is a group of people all over the world who feel the need to share their lives and their knowledge through a network that, in an age of iPhones and the Internet, still favours snail mail, typewriters, and physical print. However, that is not to say we are totally averse to technology. The Internet has been a huge resource for helping zinesters find one another, trade zines and letters and form events like zine tours and zine fairs.
A fellow zinester and I always joke about how counterintuitive zine fairs are, because it seems that the majority of people who write zines are extremely shy, which is perhaps why we get so much from writing and making zines, but zine fairs put us all in a room together and force us to interact with each other. I have to smile when I look around from my table, feeling overwhelmed by all the people and seeing those people look back at me the same way. We are all different, and we all write zines about different things, but the uniqueness of each one makes them something to be treasured in my eyes.
Five Tips for Starting Zines
– Find a copy shop you like and become familiar with the copy machines. Expect to make mistakes and get frustrated. Also, in Montreal, learn the French and English terms for things, you’ll find it is very helpful.
– When making a zine for the first time, decide whether you want your zine to be personal or informative, whether you want it to be all your own work or to accept submissions.
– Make a list of possible topics and ideas you want to write about and start writing articles as you think of them. Having a cache of saved articles is helpful when you’re not sure what to include.
– Write first about what you want, and then edit afterwards with your audience in mind. Or don’t, it’s all up to you.
– Perfection is not always necessary.
Adrian Fynch the pseudonym of an artist and zinemaker studying at Concordia and living in Montreal.